That was certainly a mismatch in the end.
The battle between D-Agency and Wind Agency was certainly a fascinating one to watch play out, but not because there was ever really any doubt over who would come up trumps. Even given the expectation I had going in that Yuuki and his boys would win the day, in the event this was a whitewash – a thoroughgoing and humiliating defeat so total that Col. Kazato feels he has no alternative but to blow his own brains out (we’ll talk more about that development in a moment or two).
I’m still wrestling with a fundamental problem I have with Joker Game, which is that it seems we’re watching a struggle between two groups to prove they can better serve the cause of fascism. You can gussy that up however you like, but it is what it is – and as a viewer, you can either be bothered by it or not. It’s nice that D-Agency disdains killing and suicide, but I don’t think there’s any higher moral reasoning behind that – it’s simply more practical if you’re a spy, for reasons Yuuki has done a very good job of elucidating. I think I just the wrong idea about Joker Game to an extent, through no fault of its own – it looks like I made a couple of leaps I shouldn’t have made.
If there’s a takeaway from this arc and this episode especially, it’s that regular military just aren’t cut out for espionage. The fundamental nature of being a military man seems antithetical to being successful as a spy – most certainly in an Imperial Japanese culture that disdained spying as cowardly and dishonorable. Wind Agency got pretty much every aspect of this wrong, starting with the notion that the “Grand Strategy” Shirahata was passing to Graham was of any real military value (indeed, the brass would have to have been pretty stupid indeed to set that all down on paper in one document).
Kazato and his team simply lack Yuuki’s ability to see the chess board as a whole and think several moves ahead. They just see Shirahata as a potential traitor and want to take him down – Yuuki sees him as a valuable asset to be strung along for as long as possible. That means placing Jitsui (Fukuyama Jun) posing as a houseboy in Shirahata’s villa for over a year, and to give him a tempting cover story as a rich boy whose parents bribed his way out of the draft – one that would prove impossible for anyone meddling in the situation to resist. Shirahata is harmless but a potential entrée into England, which makes him priceless – who cares whether he’s a traitor or not? Wind Agency, that’s who – who almost blow the whole thing up by their clumsy interference.
As to the mechanics of what was happening in the episode, I knew as soon as I heard Fukuyama’s voice (he does a nice job here) that he was stringing Kazato along (I was thinking an immunity to tranquilizers, but this is more realistic). Heck, Kazato’s operation is so clumsy he can’t even pull the wool over the eyes of the staff at the ryokan, who recognize how implausible it would be for a group of young men to gather there as civilians when everyone was being drafted. That Kazuto should choose to end his life in the manner he did for the reasons he did is certainly ironic – it’s emblematic of the very rigidity and jingoism that Yuuki so disdains in Kazato and those like him.
The truth of the matter is, if Yuuki really wanted to undercut the Imperial cause he’d have let Wind Agency become their spy arm – because that would have been a disaster. But of course that’s not what Yuuki wants – he’s a patriot, even if a seemingly apolitical one. There’s nothing inherently wrong in that, but with the benefit of hindsight and distance both historical and geographical, it’s hard to see he and his men as anyone truly worth rooting for.